History of antisemitism in the United States

There have been different opinions among historians with regard to the extent of antisemitism in America's past and how American antisemitism contrasted with its European counterpart. Earlier students of American Jewish life minimized the presence of antisemitism in the United States, which they considered a late and alien phenomenon that arose on the American scene in the late 19th century. More recently however, scholars have asserted that no period in American Jewish history was free from antisemitism. The debate about the significance of antisemitism during different periods of American history has continued to the present day.[1]

A cartoon from Judge magazine showing the advancement of poor Jewish immigrants, 1892.

The first governmental incident of anti-Jewish sentiment was recorded during the American Civil War, when General Ulysses S. Grant issued a General Order (quickly rescinded by President Abraham Lincoln) of expulsion against Jews from the portions of Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi that were under his control.

During the first half of the 20th century, Jews were discriminated against and barred from working in some fields of employment, barred from renting and/or owning certain properties, not accepted as members by social clubs, barred from resort areas and barred from enrolling in colleges by quotas. Antisemitism reached its peak during the interwar period with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, antisemitic publications in The Dearborn Independent, and incendiary radio speeches by Father Coughlin in the late 1930s.

Following World War II and the Holocaust, anti-Jewish sentiment significantly declined in the United States. However, there has been an upsurge in the number of antisemitic hate crimes in recent years.


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